Archive for October 2008

Got Time for Serendipity?   Leave a comment

Synchronicity is the only decent planning tool sometimes for me.

During my work with students in the Blue Planet Society, an after school club of volunteering students, I was lucky enough to meet some very well meaning people in the community who believed in young people and sincerely want to help the environment.

Sue Sylvester at Adolfson & Peterson Construction was incredibly helpful and supportive in many ways to the club. She was also instrumental in organizing events to help teachers in getting green information for their students. The volunteer work in the community she gives tirelessly to support the environment is exceptional.

Mary Holden is another amazing person. Her work in Raising Arizona Kids Magazine includes calling attention to green efforts and projects in schools. She was incredibly kind to send me a copy of Last Child in the Woods by Robert Louv. Reading that book opened my eyes to a world I thought I knew but then realized I had a whole lot more to understand – a wonderful gift for me indeed.

There are many amazing individuals, I think, who are spreading some useful and educational nuggets that everyone can use. Here is another one ….

Shaping Youth
Amy has an awesome blog that has an eco thread and other great information about how media and marketing influence kids today.


Teachers for Green Schools

Green School News

Education Gaming News

Facebook: Collaborate With K-12 Educators


Posted October 28, 2008 by Jack in community involvement, ecology, green

Unruly Classes – Ordinary People Being Leaders   Leave a comment

Teachers have a job like no one else. No kidding.

Get unruly with a cop you can get arrested or detained.

Get unruly at a restaurant and you’ll be refused service.

Get unruly with your partner and they will tell you to get out.

But, get unruly in a K-12 class and the responsibility of a teacher is to run through their discipline system with the priority to keep you in class and have you be educated. My discipline system worked like this:
– first incident of disrupting class was a verbal warning.

– second incident of the same behavior was calling home, which sometimes meant stopping class – thereby disrupting 25+ students learning the content.

– third incident of same disruptive behavior was a “Responsible Thinking Form” and trip to the Dean.

– fourth incident was writing a Referral, which goes in student permanent file, and a trip back to see the Dean.

What I saw as a teacher was that there is a very small minority of students who are disruptive but then they can disrupt the entire class.

I think there are two ways to reduce disruptive behaviors and thereby support students who want to learn in excelling. First, remove disruptive students. Public K-12 classes are not experiments in behavior modification. Students that continually disrupt more than one class need to be set free. Put them in an alternative learning environment or put them to work at a job skill or a job. The worse action to take, for teachers and students who want to learn, is putting them back in a classroom.

Second, teachers need to be better leaders, which definitely requires a certain chemistry; a mix of content knowledge, people skills, presentation skills, some degree of being technology savvy, and compassion. I do agree that it’s tough to train leaders. Think about it, we can take an ordinary person and spend thousands and thousands of dollars to make one Navy Seal. But has anyone built or even researched the effective program that turns and ordinary person into a K-12 teacher?

Students nowadays are more prone to be technology savvy, able to multi-task, and obviously looking to understand more about life and their role in it. The television shows and movies they watch cover serious stuff and that comes with them to class, along with everything else that is happening or not happening at home. Today, young people are inundated with sex, violence, speedy advertisements, and dysfunctional behaviors at all levels of life. K-12 students today are not a docile blank slate waiting to be filled. They have an undying thirst to understand.

When you look around at the majority of new teachers, what do you see?. They are 20 something and fresh out of college. Kudos to them for making a decision to support education, but they have little life experience to offer students. My concern is that we are filling K-12 teacher slots with young teachers who lack the life skills to be able to teach because they are unable to match or exceed student thirst. They haven’ been out in life enough – yet. Sure they know the content, but can they deal with what else is happening in a K-12 class?

The chemistry of teaching isn’t easy. We all had at least one teacher that knew everything but couldn’t control the class. Or, the teacher that was everyone’s friend and no one learned a darn anything. Remember the teacher who filled every class period with worksheets and s/he just sat at their desk? And then the nightmare teacher, where you did exactly the same thing every day in class.

Life experience is priceless – no matter what profession you are in. It means volumes to the students when you can pull life into a lesson and talk to the lesson content. That is called engaging students with life outside of class. The other point, students are always taking everything to the limit – don’t all young people do this? I did. Young people need to test the limits to see what they can get away with. The challenge of new teachers is that s/he hasn’t built up a repertoire of meaningful social experiences to deal with “behavior incident” situations because they have been learning the subject content.

K-12 teachers must be a solid leader in the land of young people thirsty to comprehend our complex world. We owe it to new teachers to train them, not in being book smart, but in the comprehensive chemistry of effective K-12 teaching. If you know of a “pre-service” teaching program that you think offers the right chemistry for training teachers please let me know.

What helped me the most as a new teacher?
Harry Wong – a must read and then DO IT.

Multiple Intelligences – Harry Gardner

Even though he has little research his ideas are compelling and helped me understand individual students.

K-12 Grants for project learning and service learning

Make Your voice Heard – Report cards

Equity: Teen Video Gaming or Science and Math   2 comments

A recently released Pew study on the internet, teens and gaming explains what we expected: 97% of ‘em play video games or console games. What else? That 99% of boys and 94% of girls are “enthusiastic” players.

When I was a kid a social experience was interacting with people that usually occurred outdoors. Not today, according to that report, for most teens, gaming is a social activity and a major component of their overall social experience.

STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math) education in the United States is at an all time low. Everyone agrees on this – even McCain and Obama. The US job segment requiring science and math skills had only 8% of the total number of degrees awarded in 2001. Since 2003 there has been a reduction of 50% in undergraduate enrollments of computer science degrees. This is no guessing game – at this pace in 2010 the vast majority of the world’s scientists will anywhere but USA grown.

My take is education must be reformed: 1) curriculum needs to take advantage of what teens like to do, 2) teachers need to put technology in as much of the school day as possible, and 3) education stakeholders must take some bold steps – NOW – to curb these trends. How?

National curriculum standards that mandate technology use.
Incorporate technology training for teachers to bolster their skill level to and support using technology methods in K-12 classes. For example, we know students play and enjoy video games so move that forward by requiring a portion of the daily lesson include using a video game. Using what students like to do already as a teaching tool. Video games are essentially a problem solving garden. Every scenario the player is given requires critical thinking to find the solution.

Obligate sufficient assets to supplement existing curriculum resources.
The BBC recently reported that using computer games daily helped boost math scores in Scottish schools. K-12 teachers must provide students with meaningful and frequent learning opportunities using technology. I have read all the studies that say teachers have the computers they need and that just ain’t so. As a former high school teacher, I can tell you that there are not enough computers to go around in the schools. Many times the computers don’t work. Students interested in learning are being cheated because they don’t have the technology tools necessary to challenge them – that’s a crying shame to the USA.

Weave every subject into video games.
The Pew report also state that little evidence exists of concerns that gaming promotes behaviors or attitudes that undermine civic behaviors. With that objection out of the way, gaming can be used for all the core content subjects. Other studies have shown that student collaboration, working together on a project, is a positive influence on learning. That, as an educator, I know to be true.

Hey, I’m not a technology freak. No, I completely enjoy the outdoors and nature. People, we have to get real about the future of our leaders. To have scientists, engineers, and world leaders for tomorrow we need to start NOW.

Here are three of my top learning from playing resources:

1. Games in Multimedia
Many of these are online and some can be downloaded. The majority of online entries are free and cover multiple subjects.

2 Whyville
A Web-based virtual world that provides inquiry-based education for middle school students. Created by University of Texas professor Jim Bower — a former professor at the California Institute of Technology and founder of CalTech’s Pre-College Science Initiative.

3 WISE – Web Based Science Inquiry Environment
Funded by NSF this site offers a host of case studies where students perform sequenced tasks to research, analyze, and arrive at conclusions.

Say it – report cards: teachers, students, and parents

Remember nature? Southwest glory is here.

Teachers for Green Schools

Green School News

Education Gaming News

Facebook: Collaborate With K-12 Educators

Secret Of Engaging Students


Posted October 16, 2008 by Jack in cross- curriculum, laptop technology